Mars rover Curiosity has gotten a new brain. NASA scientists just spent four days changing Curiosity's software, swapping out programs it needed for its complicated landing on Mars and replacing them with software that will enable it to drive, operate its robot arm, and analyze soil samples, reports NASA. NASA engineers jokingly called the process a brain transplant. "It's fair to say that the scientists, not to mention the rover drivers, are itching to move," says a project scientist. They hope to give Curiosity its first Martian test drive next week.
With Curiosity generating so many headlines these days, several NASA scientists are helping take "geek chic" to new heights, reports the AP. Flight director Bobak Ferdowsi famously sports a mohawk with stars shaved into the sides of his head. And Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer of Curiosity's landing, is a former musician with a pompadour and sideburns. "You guys are a little cooler than you used to be," said President Obama in a congratulatory phone call. Meanwhile, NASA has released an incredibly detailed image of Mars with Curiosity visible, made by HiRISE, a powerful camera in orbit around the planet. NASA's hi-res version of the image can be seen here.